Country Music HoF Adds New Induction Category

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) —
Beginning this year,
The Country Music Association has added a new category to the annual inductions for the Country Music Hall of Fame. Career Achieved National Prominence Between 1975 and the Present was added to accelerate the induction process for all Hall-of-Fame-caliber artists.

Several important issues factored into the decision, which was approved by the CMA Board of Directors during recent meetings in Los Angeles. With the current model, which allows only two inductees a year, many deserving artists and industry pioneers were not being inducted until after their deaths. And many contemporary acts, who have had an enormous impact on country music, were facing a long wait before having a realistic chance to get into the Hall of Fame.

“We had reached a point where we were falling behind,” said CMA Executive Director Ed Benson. “Country music was generating Hall of Fame caliber artists faster than the current system was allowing us to induct them.”

Since its inception in 1961 by the Country Music Association to recognize and honor noteworthy individuals for outstanding contributions to the advancement of country music, 92 acts, pioneers and leaders have been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. By comparison, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which began inducting artists in 1986, currently has 209 members.

“What became apparent was that if we didn’t start putting in more people on a regular basis, artists with currently active careers might have to wait three decades to get in,” said Brian Mansfield, CMA board member who chairs the CMA Awards and Recognition Committee, which developed the new plan.

“It would make the Hall of Fame more relevant for the fans to see artists they know, that they remember, as opposed to in the past when we inducted people that have retired,” said music historian Robert K. Oermann, who serves on the Awards and Recognition Committee. “Why should people who have made great contributions to the music wait until they are old and infirm to be recognized for their career accomplishments?”

Under the new model, there would be three inductees in 2005: 1 – Career Achieved National Prominence Prior to World War II; 2 – Career Achieved National Prominence Between World War II and 1975; and the new category 3 – “Career Achieved National Prominence Between 1975 and the Present.” The categories are open to performers, non-performers, active or inactive, living or deceased.

The first category would rotate every three years. In 2006, the category would be Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980. In 2007, the category would be for Non-Performer and then in 2008 return to “Career Achieved National Prominence Prior to World War II.

The dates are not arbitrary, according to Mansfield. The end of World War II (1945) and 1975 were significant time periods in the history of the format.

Following World War II there was a cultural shift. GIs were returning from overseas, honky tonks sprung up, there was an economic boon. The recording ban during the War was lifted and music was being produced at an accelerated rate.

In 1975, there was a second shift. country albums were achieving Platinum and then multi-platinum status for the first time. The format was generating commercial superstars and it was the springboard for major market country radio stations as big signal AM rock channels switched to FM and country filled the void.

Being more encompassing was important, but so was preserving the integrity and exclusive nature of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“This is the right step at the right time,” Benson said. “This way we can continue to honor our legends while getting some contemporary artists into the Hall of Fame sooner than they otherwise could have been included.”

Each year, the Country Music Hall of Fame Nominating Committee, made up of 12 industry leaders serving three-year terms, prepares a slate of nominees for the Hall of Fame. The slate is mailed in two rounds of balloting to the Hall of Fame Panel of Electors for voting. The Panel is made up of more than 300 anonymous members of the industry. Once appointed, members serve on the Panel for life – unless they ask to be removed or fail to vote in two consecutive elections.

The 2005 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees will be announced later this summer. They will be formally inducted during the 2005 CMA Awards, Country Music’s Biggest Night, which will be held on November 15 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. — Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

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